Warriors fall to top-ranked Lee in quarters
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Early in the third set against top-ranked and undefeated Lee University, things were looking good for the Lewis-Clark State College women’s volleyball team.
The Warriors had split the first two sets with the Flames in their quarterfinal match at the NAIA National Championships, and had some momentum after winning the set second and taking the lead in the third set.
However, holding a 14-13 advantage, the Warriors saw why the Flames are so highly regarded as Lee found its stride and outscored the Warriors 36-22 the rest of the way to claim a 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-14 victory on Friday.
The Warriors were playing their third match in less than 24 hours after having to defeat Northwestern College on Thursday night in five sets in pool play to advance to its four-set win over Azusa Pacific in bracket play on Friday morning. Lee, which received a first-round bye in bracket play, hadn’t played since Thursday afternoon.
“We played a great team and I just think we ran out of steam,” LCSC coach Jen Greeny said. “We played a tough match late the night before and then played again in the morning, and then had to play against a team that has had a lot of rest. We just didn’t have enough in the tank.”
The loss brings an end to one of the most successful seasons in Warrior volleyball history. The Warriors finished the season at 31-3, establishing single-season records for fewest losses and overall winning percentage (.912). LCSC also finished one win short of tying its best finish at the national tournament when it made the semifinals in 1998.
It’s also the fifth time in school history LCSC has won 30 or more matches in a season and the 31 wins ranks fourth all-time.
The Warriors also had a 20-match win streak during the season and went 14-0 in Frontier Conference play, becoming the first team to go undefeated in league play since the Warrior team of 1999, the year that LCSC joined the league.
As they had done in three of their four matches at nationals, the Warriors fell behind early but appeared to be rallying at the right time. Lee, 39-0, however, had an answer for the Warrior rally in the names of Arlene Ferreira, Kayla Carlisle, and Irene Ojukwu. The three combined for 42 of the team’s 63 kills with Ferreira and Carlisle posting 15 apiece.
“They started passing really well and found all of their hitters,” Greeny said. “They had a lot of weapons coming at us. The first two sets defensively we did a good job and then it was just a little too much for us. I think their (the LCSC players’) minds were telling them where to go, but the bodies couldn’t get there.”
Outside hitter Kelli Tikker led the Warriors with 13 kills and also added 14 digs, while Nicole Graybeal added 11 kills and three blocks. Deddiy Alaimaleata had eight kills, while Jenika Bird-Jeppson and Lauryn Herrick had seven apiece. The Warriors finished with 48 kills and a .160 hitting percentage, while Lee hit .252 for the match.
Senior Katie Hinrichs had 17 digs and two service aces for the Warriors and set a single-season dig record in the process. She finished the season with 561 digs, topping the mark of 550 by Kymm Lingnaw in 1996.
“That’s phenomenal,” Greeny said. “We knew we would have to go deep into the tournament to get that record. Katie has been rock solid for us all season. She definitely will be tough to place in the position and her leadership role. She had a fantastic career.”
Kim Fong had 24 assists while Alyssa Wold added 16 and three service aces for LCSC.
The Warriors have won or shared the FC regular-season title in all four years Greeny has been coach and also has won the conference tournament title. This was LCSC’s 11th trip to the NAIA tournament, including its fourth straight. The Warriors are 24-24 all-time in the tourney.
“It absolutely has been a great season for us and just a different feeling this year,” Greeny said. “I’m so proud of the team for getting out of pool play and making it to the final eight. I’m just proud of the way they fought and the way they worked hard all season long.”
The Warriors lose four seniors from the squad – Hinrichs, Fong, Bird-Jeppson, and Demi Dlouhy.
“It’s been a great year and an absolute fantastic group of young women to coach,” Greeny said. “I’m really proud of what they accomplished this season.”
The Warriors will fly into Spokane early Sunday morning and should arrive at the LCSC Activity Center around 12:20 p.m.